If you’re living in Goa, then you’re definitely aware of the ongoing ‘war’ between Goa Miles, the app-based taxi service, and the local taxi drivers. If you’re not living here and are not aware of what’s happening, the short version of the story is that local taxi drivers are up in arms because they feel that app-based services such as Goa Miles are a hindrance to their business and that the Government should not support these providers. They should instead ban all app-based taxi services, and prevent others from entering the state. It’s a tall request that even Chief Minister of Goa Pramod Sawant has turned down. So what is the resolution here? What is in the best interest for the drivers, tourists, and locals? Since there are two sides to a coin, we’re going to break it down so you can decide.
Local Taxi Drivers and their legacy service
It’s no surprise that for years now, the fares charged by the local taxi drivers have been a bone of contention for locals and tourists alike. Rs 2000 for a trip to the airport, or Rs 800 to go from Arpora to Baga is completely unjustified. Locals and tourists continue to take to social media to complain about unjustified taxi fares on a daily basis. From the taxi driver’s standpoint, however, they’re just doing what it takes to get by. In a recent press conference, AGTA (All Goa Taxi Association) vice-president Baban Sawant said “Goans are in this business for the past seventy years and now even educated youth are in this business.” One of his major concerns is that the Government is allowing outsiders to be looted through the Goa Miles taxi app business. He also criticised the government for allowing the business of local Goans to be sacrificed.
In the same conference, an ultimatum was put forward to the CM and the government that they should scrap Goa Miles by June 10, failing which they plan to organise a strike. This was all said while vehemently refuting accusations of taxis charging exorbitant rates. The AGTA and the other unions also called for the suspension of current transport director Nikhil Dessai, alleging that because of his acceptance of Goa Miles, local taxi drivers have faced significant losses. They also alleged that the majority of Goa Miles drivers are not Goan, and the chief minister is fooling the taxi operators by stating that there are Goans employed with Goa Miles.
Embracing technology with Goa Miles
The Goa Miles camp has been the passive side in this resistance. In fact, they have been on the receiving end of more than its share of bad press, and actual physical violence from local taxi drivers. Since the launch of the Goa Miles app, there have been sixteen FIRs and eight non-cognisable cases have been registered against local cab drivers. The management team at Goa Miles insists that a lot of the allegations brought against them are false. For instance, with regards to their drivers being ‘outsiders’, GoaMiles operation manager Hemant Chodnekar said, “We are all Goan, our drivers are of Goan domicile and all our taxi owners have Goan domicile.” But residency issues aside, the major point brought forward by Goa MIles is the allegation that they are running their business illegally. In a press conference held yesterday, Goa Miles spokesperson Justin Nunes said, “GoaMiles pays the government 5% GST for each trip. Have these unions paid any tax to the government?” His point was that when it comes to the local taxis, 32,000 registered taxis earn Rs 6,700 crore annually, of which 5% should be duly paid as taxes to the government – but it does not happen. The local taxis are unregulated, and even after charging ridiculously high rates, do not pay taxes. Shouldn’t the Government investigate the income of these local taxi drivers?
Goa Miles started in August of last year and has already enrolled about 1500 taxis to its service. Nunes said that currently, 20 to 30 per cent of bookings are done by locals, however, there were very few taxis in the internal areas to meet the demand. With Goa Miles taxi drivers being beaten up by local taxi drivers, there is obviously great reluctance to join the service. To combat this, the Chief Minister himself has assured protection to the Goa Miles drivers and stated openly that “If anybody takes law and order in their hands, we will not tolerate it. The taxi unions cannot obstruct GoaMiles and they should not.” In fact, he went a step further to suggest that local taxi drivers try out the app for at least a month.
The new CM seems to believe highly in the regularisation that Goa Miles can bring. He’s even told the local taxi owners that if after trying the app if they are not happy, they can come back to him for a proper discussion. Goa Miles spokesperson Justin Nunes also said that if in the event that other app-based services like Uber and Ola decide to enter the state, they will welcome the technology as it will promote healthy competion. The local taxi drivers are currently banking on the fact that for them, the taxi service is a ‘traditional service’ that is at risk. The reality is that they don’t want to have to succumb to regulated fares. The people of Goa are still divided, but leaning more towards an app-based, regulated system of taxis in Goa. There have been a couple of petitions online urging the Government to do away with local taxis in favour of radio taxis, like this one titled ‘CHIEF MINISTER OF GOA: SUPPORT GOA TAXI REVOLUTION’ which has garnered over 12,000 signatures, and ‘Support GoaMiles’ a petition started by Goa Miles which has collected close to 5000 signatures. We at ItsGoa even ran our own poll, the results of which are below.
The question now is, which side are you on? Let us know in the comments below.